Sandwich Smackdown!

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Posts.

In the past few months, two highly touted sandwich shops opened in the East 20s. At 61 Lexington Ave. (betw. E. 25th and E. 26th Sts.) you have Baogette, the always-packed Vietnamese sandwich shop from Thao Nguyen and Michael Bao. It’s not the only game in town, though. Just a few blocks away, at 261 Third Ave. (at E. 21st St.), is Defonte’s, the Gramercy outpost of the fabled Red Hook sandwich institution. East Side coworkers are bickering and stoned SVA students are confused; which of these much buzzed-about shops is best? We break it down.

 Sandwich Shop  Baogette  Defonte’s
 Signature Sandwich Bahn Mi, the traditional Vietnamese street sandwich, consisting of roast pork, pate, cilantro, pickled vegetables and mayonnaise. Potato and egg with house-made mozzarella cheese on a hero. 
 Price Point  $5-$7  $7.95-$9.95
 But We Prefer The spicy catfish sandwich with a tangy honey-mustard sauce. The shop also has daily specials, salads and soups that are always surprising and tasty. The egg hero with peppers and tomato sauce. Whatever the potatoes lack in kick, the mix of bell peppers and a dash of marinara more than make up for. 
 Popular Side Shrimp spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce Macaroni salad
 Spawn Of B’un (143 Grand St. betw. Lafayette & Crosby Sts.) Defonte’s in Red Hook (379
Columbia St. at Commerce St., Brooklyn)
 Plans for Expansion Since opening in late 2008, Baoguette has spawned a St. Marks Place location and rumor has it that another spot, complete with soup service, will open shortly. Owner Nick Defonte tells us in his thick Brooklynese: “We’re hoping to God to open on the West Side. You never know, with the changes to the economy. I’m hoping someone will approach me and say, ‘I want to put your name on stores all over.’”
 The Final Word The better of the two shops. What Baogette lacks in space and options, it more than makes up for in flavor and overall quality. Of all of the sandwiches we’ve had here—the classic, the barbecue chicken, the roast beef and the catfish—none have been disappointing, though one has been accused of souring the stomach of an otherwise healthy
intern. We sided with the bahn mi.
Much like the Times Square branch of Junior’s, an exaggerated Brooklyn ambience is used to hoodwink witless Manhattanites into accepting subpar service. That said, if you have the
patience to wait in line and order from the grumbling staff, the cold-cut sandwiches with the fried eggplant planks and pickled vegetables are a welcome alternative to the
deli doldrums.